An alembic (from Arabic : الإنبيق, romanized: al-inbīq, originating from Ancient Greek : ἄμβιξ, romanized: ambix, 'cup, beaker') is an alchemical still consisting of two vessels connected by a tube, used for distilling.
The complete distilling apparatus consists of three parts: the "cucurbit" (Arabic: ḳarʿa; Greek: βῖκος, bîkos), the still pot containing the liquid to be distilled, which is heated by a flame; the "head" or "cap" (إِنْبِيق, ʾinbīq; Greek ἄμβιξ, ambix) which fits over the mouth of the cucurbit to receive the vapors, with an attached downward-sloping "tube" (σωλήν, sōlēn); and the "receiver" (قَابِلَة, qābila; ἄγγος, angos or φιάλη, phialē) container. In the case of another distilling vessel, the retort, the "cap" and the "cucurbit" have been combined to form a single vessel. The anbik is also called the raʾs (head) of the cucurbit. The liquid in the cucurbit is heated or boiled; the vapour rises into the anbik, where it cools by contact with the walls and condenses, running down the spout into the receiver. A modern descendant of the alembic is the pot still, used to produce distilled beverages.
Dioscorides's ambix (described in his De materia medica ) is a helmet-shaped lid for gathering condensed mercury. For Athenaeus (≈225 C.E.) it is a bottle or flask. For later chemists it denotes various parts of crude distillation devices.
Alembic drawings appear in works of Cleopatra the Alchemist, Synesius, and Zosimos of Panopolis. There were alembics with two (dibikos) and three (tribikos) receivers.According to Zosimos of Panopolis, the alembic was invented by Mary the Jewess.
The anbik is described by Ibn al-Awwam in his Kitab al-Filaha (Book of Agriculture), where he explains how rose-water is distilled. Amongst others, it is mentioned in the Mafatih al-Ulum (Key of Sciences) of Khwarizmi and the Kitab al-Asrar (Book of Secrets) of al-Razi. Some illustrations occur in the Latin translations of works which are attributed to Geber.
Metaphorically, an alembic is something that refines as if by distillation.
The Unicode character set specifies two symbols for alembics. The pictogram ⚗, and the ancient alchemical symbol 🝪. The latter is part of the newer UCS-4 addition that includes other ideographs like emojis and thus may not appear correctly on older browsers.
Alchemy is an ancient branch of natural philosophy, a philosophical and protoscientific tradition practiced throughout Europe, Africa, China and throughout Asia, observable in Chinese text from around 73–49 BCE and Greco-Roman Egypt in the first few centuries CE.
Distillation, or classical distillation, is the process of separating the components or substances from a liquid mixture by using selective boiling and condensation. Dry distillation is the heating of solid materials to produce gaseous products. Dry distillation may involve chemical changes such as destructive distillation or cracking and is not discussed under this article. Distillation may result in essentially complete separation, or it may be a partial separation that increases the concentration of selected components in the mixture. In either case, the process exploits differences in the relative volatility of the mixture's components. In industrial applications, distillation is a unit operation of practically universal importance, but it is a physical separation process, not a chemical reaction.
A still is an apparatus used to distill liquid mixtures by heating to selectively boil and then cooling to condense the vapor. A still uses the same concepts as a basic distillation apparatus, but on a much larger scale. Stills have been used to produce perfume and medicine, water for injection (WFI) for pharmaceutical use, generally to separate and purify different chemicals, and to produce distilled beverages containing ethanol.
A pot still is a type of distillation apparatus or still used to distill flavoured liquors such as whisky or cognac, but not rectified spirit because they are bad at separating congeners. Pot stills operate on a batch distillation basis. Traditionally constructed from copper, pot stills are made in a range of shapes and sizes depending on the quantity and style of spirit desired.
The Liebig condenser or straight condenser is a piece of laboratory equipment, specifically a condenser consisting of a straight glass tube surrounded by a water jacket.
Vitriol is the general chemical name encompassing a class of chemical compound comprising sulfates of certain metals — originally, iron or copper. Those mineral substances were distinguished by their color, such as green vitriol for hydrated iron(II) sulfate and blue vitriol for hydrated copper(II) sulfate.
In a chemistry laboratory, a retort is a device used for distillation or dry distillation of substances. It consists of a spherical vessel with a long downward-pointing neck. The liquid to be distilled is placed in the vessel and heated. The neck acts as a condenser, allowing the vapors to condense and flow along the neck to a collection vessel placed underneath.
Liquor or spirit is an alcoholic drink produced by distillation of grains, fruits, or vegetables that have already gone through alcoholic fermentation. The distillation process purifies the liquid to increase its alcohol by volume. As liquors contain significantly more alcohol (ethanol) than other alcoholic drinks, they are considered "harder" – in North America, the term hard liquor is used to distinguish distilled alcoholic drinks from non-distilled ones, whereas the term spirits is used in the UK. Examples of liquors include brandy, vodka, baijiu, shōchū, soju, gin, rum, tequila, mezcal, and whisky.
Mary or Maria the Jewess, also known as Mary the Prophetess, is an early alchemist who is known from the works of the Gnostic Christian writer Zosimos of Panopolis. On the basis of Zosimos's comments, she lived between the first and third centuries A.D. in Alexandria. French, Taylor and Lippmann list her as one of the first alchemical writers, dating her works at no later than the first century.
Mu'ayyad al-Din Abu Isma‘il al-Husayn ibn Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Abd al-Samad al-Du'ali al-Kināni al-Tughra'i was an 11th–12th century Arab poet and alchemist.
Zosimos of Panopolis was an Egyptian-born Greek alchemist and Gnostic mystic who lived at the end of the 3rd and beginning of the 4th century AD. He was born in Panopolis, and flourished ca. 300. He wrote the oldest known books on alchemy, which he called "Cheirokmeta," using the Greek word for "things made by hand." Pieces of this work survive in the original Greek language and in translations into Syriac or Arabic. He is one of about 40 authors represented in a compendium of alchemical writings that was probably put together in Constantinople in the 7th or 8th century AD, copies of which exist in manuscripts in Venice and Paris. Stephen of Alexandria is another.
An aludel is a subliming pot used in alchemy. The term refers to a range of earthen tubes, or pots without bottoms, fitted one over another, and diminishing as they advance towards the top. The lowest is adapted to a pot, placed in a furnace, wherein the matter to be sublimed is placed. At the top is a head to retain the flowers, or condensation, which ascends. An aludel was used as a condenser in the sublimation process and thus came to signify the end-stages of transformation and the symbol of creation. Also called the Hermetic Vase, the Philosopher's Egg, and the Vase of the Philosophy.
Batch distillation refers to the use of distillation in batches, meaning that a mixture is distilled to separate it into its component fractions before the distillation still is again charged with more mixture and the process is repeated. This is in contrast with continuous distillation where the feedstock is added and the distillate drawn off without interruption. Batch distillation has always been an important part of the production of seasonal, or low capacity and high-purity chemicals. It is a very frequent separation process in the pharmaceutical industry.
Muḥammad ibn Umayl al-Tamīmī, known in Latin as Senior Zadith, was an Egyptian alchemist who lived from c. 900 to c. 960 AD.
Reflux is a technique involving the condensation of vapors and the return of this condensate to the system from which it originated. It is used in industrial and laboratory distillations. It is also used in chemistry to supply energy to reactions over a long period of time.
Alchemy and chemistry in Islam refers to the study of both traditional alchemy and early practical chemistry by Muslim scholars in the medieval Islamic world. The word alchemy was derived from the Arabic word كيمياء or kīmiyāʾ and may ultimately derive from the ancient Egyptian word kemi, meaning black.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to alchemy:
Ambix is a peer-reviewed academic journal on the history of alchemy and chemistry that was established in 1936. It was not published from 1939 to 1945. It is currently published by the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry.
Cleopatra the Alchemist was a Greek alchemist, author, and philosopher. She experimented with practical alchemy but is also credited as one of the four female alchemists that could produce the Philosopher's stone. Some writers consider her to be the inventor of the alembic, a distillation apparatus.